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Vets earn best, safest care possible

IHAVE ALWAYS BEEN grateful that Holyoke, the city in which I live, had the Soldiers’ Home.

There was none in North Adams, where I grew up, and I remember it was always a concern for loving families who could no longer care for loved ones who had served in America’s armed forces in World War I.

Men and women who are willing to give their lives so the rest of us can have ours really deserve a guarantee of care when they are no longer able to care for themselves. It is a very lucky city which has a Soldiers’ Home, and Holyoke has felt this good fortune since the home was built here in the 1950s.

The Holyoke Soldiers Home has been a very special residence for these veterans. Not only were some of this area’s best physicians on staff, but great registered nurses provided 24-hour care, loving their jobs and bringing kindness along with professional medical care to the men and women who resided there.

A dear friend of mine who was an Army nurse was a patient at the Soldiers’ Home. I visited her often, and she said that no one had it as wonderful as she because she had a private room. I don’t know if there have been other nurses who served in our armed forces who have been in residence there, but every time I was with my friend I would tell her I wish I had served because what she had was far greater than nursing homes in our area.

Back then, private rooms were not available for male veterans. I am not sure if every veteran had been in a private room if the tragedy of the ravage of COVID-19 would have taken place at the Soldiers’ Home, but to have 76 veterans lose their lives to this virus is unconscionable.

As in other nursing homes and retirement facilities the very moment the virus was detected action began. I wonder if at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home something was done differently our death toll would have been negligible. We did not hear of such tragedy at the Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea. There is a great deal of speculation about this with as always the finger pointing at politics. So many of us who have lived all our lives in the western part of the state have felt like second-class citizens compared to the attention and services were are so bountiful from Worcester east.

But be all of this as it may, the damage has been done and finger pointing is always a popular after-tragedy sport.

The state Legislature should get on its toes or at least off its rear end and make some changes. I don’t know whether it would be more expensive to build an entirely new facility or to somehow bring the present one up to standard. Something has to be done and the sooner the moves are made the happier a lot of taxpayers will be. I feel

SEE BERNARD, PAGE C12 Something has to be done and the sooner the moves are made the happier a lot of taxpayers will be. I feel those of us who pay taxes have the right to see some of these taxes spent right here from where they come.

Barbara Bernard


those of us who pay taxes have the right to see some of these taxes spent right here from where they come.

I also add that our veterans deserve this. Take a long look at their sacrifices and consider providing them with a safe, secure and effective residence for the remainder of their years. It is small repayment.

In Northampton, there is a federal medical center for veterans. This facility seems to be run efficiently and without major problems, certainly not any such effects as happened with COVID-19 taking all those lives in Holyoke. How is it that this happens? Could it be the facility’s staff or leadership? Or is it just plain luck?

Whatever the reason, the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke did not have what it needed.

There is a board of trustees for the Soldiers’ Home, and, if they remain as a body or if some resign and new ones are appointed, these men and women should be fighting for a solution. They also might expect some chastisement for not stepping in quickly the minute the virus problem reared its ugly head.

At this time there is a group that includes members of families of veterans who either have been at the Soldiers’ Home or are presently in residence there. I am sure anyone who has an interest in righting things would be welcome to join. I don’t know if a group like this can make as much noise needed to effect remedies, but I think every one of us should add our voices and our votes to theirs.

The tragedy of 76 lives lost is deplorable. It is more than an embarrassment. I think it’s almost criminal. When veterans are in soldiers’ homes they should be guaranteed protection and constant quality care.

I believe it becomes imperative for every single one of us to wage a different kind of war than the ones for which these men and women were willing to give their lives. We could not be on the battlefields with them, but we certainly can be on the battlefield for this

Barbara C. Bernard, of Holyoke, is a columnist for The Republican.

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